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Update from Jodi, April 2011

The News from Nyangungu: Final Report

Dear Family and Friends,

I've been looking over the letters I've written to you over the last three years, and thought I'd give you some updates on those I've written about before I fly out of Bujumbura tomorrow evening.

- Anitha Irankunda and Lazare's wife Luminata, the two pregnant women I drove to the hospital in October of 2008, each delivered a healthy baby in mid-December of that year: Anitha's daughter Doucine, and Luminata and Lazare's son Zéno. The babies have grown into remarkably healthy and active two-year-olds. Doucine loves to sing, and Zéno, to dance. They both laugh a lot.

- Aléxandre Nsabimana and Estella Niyonsenga, two of the brightest students in the Hope School's first high school class, are now in 9th Grade. Aléxandre is the student president, and Estella came first in their class last term. She has grown from a waif into a shapely young lady, and Aléxandre is much stronger and less prone to illness than he was two years ago. Both are expected to pass and pioneer the Hope School's first 10th Grade class next year, when they will also sit national exams that will determine their track in senior high school. Quite a feat for what started on a wing and a prayer as a pre-school in 2001.

- Jean Mvugerigende and Philbert Ntahomvukiye, the two boys from another province whose attendance was interrupted by the murder of a Hutu man from Nyangungu by two Batwa men in their commune, have taken different paths. Jean has persevered at the Hope School, and is also likely to be part of that first 10th Grade class. He lives with his sister and brother-in-law and their six children in a house that could hardly hold that many people standing up, let alone sleeping. Philbert didn't return after 7th Grade. Jean says he's struggling to keep studying back in their home province.

- Jérémie Bakevya, my beloved gardener and the student who managed to get his father to stop beating his mother, turned twenty this January. His father hasn't been around much this year, but occasionally sends threatening messages in lieu of child support to Jérémie's mother from the places he runs away to (southern Burundi, Uganda, ???). Jérémie has pretty much given up on him. He has chosen an excellent family man to sponsor him when he will be baptized at the Friends' Church on Easter. Jérémie told me recently that when he lies in bed at night thinking about my departure, he starts to cry. This announcement had a similar effect on me. I encouraged him to keep praying and see what God would do. It's humbling to know a young person with so much courage and goodness.

- Bonnet and Florence, the two little friends of Rosine Mvuyekure, who died at age five last year, are in the 2nd-level pre-school class now. Both began the school year well, and Bonnet continues to excell. Florence missed a few weeks with recurrent malaria at the beginning of 2011, and her little brother died in January. She's come back to school, but seems dazed and unable to concentrate for long. She still loves to sing and dance, however (as does Bonnet), and recently led the children in a spirited rendition of a song about jumping up and down in heaven with palm fronds and flowers in their hands.

- Among the Batwa couples legally married in Mutaho in 2009, my night guard Joël and his wife borrowed nearly two months' salary to go the next step and have a church wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony at the Friends' Church in Rurengera, followed by a great reception on Nyangungu. They continue to be a model couple with only two children.

- Jeanne the policewoman and ex-combatant who lives next door to me is now the mother of a beautiful baby boy named Munezero (Joy). She married a local chauffeur named Sengiyumva (I Pray and God Hears), and is absolutely radiant.

- His Excellency Peter Nkurunziza was overwhelmingly re-elected as President of Burundi in June 2010. He still hasn't visited the Hope School. His Excellency Paul Kagame was overwhelmingly re-elected as President of Rwanda in August 2010. Elections in both countries were relatively peaceful.

- The lakes of East/Central Africa continue to be great: Tanganyika with her crown of mountains and mysterious depths, and Bunyonyi with her refreshing chill and sleepy islands for MCC service workers to rest on.

- Beans are flowering and beginning to form pods on my land. The Ruvubu River has overflowed its banks with the heavy rains, reclaiming its wetlands and wiping out many small rice farmers along its banks. My neem seedlings all seemed to have died, and then they sprouted new leaves at the base of their stalks. They may shade that path yet.

Life goes on in Nyangungu and Gitamo, in Rurengera and Kagoma, at the Hope School and the Grand Seminaire de Burasira. Night has fallen in Bujumbura after heavy rains that broke the heat of my last full day in Burundi. By the time it falls again, I will be rising through the clouds over Tanganyika, on my way back to you. Pray for me as I leave this beloved country.

Love, Jodi